Orange-marinated Tofu

During dinner last night I commented, “this is a stereotypically healthy meal.” It was also a stereotypically vegan meal: brown rice, tofu, kale, and corn on the cob. While it sounds kind of boring, and it’s true that it wasn’t the most amazing meal ever, it was very flavorful and I felt good about eating it, so here you go:

Orange-Marinated Tofu
Lightly adapted from http://www.food.com/recipe/spicy-orange-tofu-136875
By “adapted” I mean I looked at this recipe briefly, went into the kitchen, and proceeded to pour mysterious amounts of what I thought I remembered were the ingredients together without measuring. So my measurements are guesses. I did eliminate most of the oil, however.

1 pound extra-firm tofu, sliced into 1/2″ slabs
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
thumb-sized piece of ginger, grated
squirt of agave nectar
6-8 dried red chilis, lightly crushed between fingers

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine all the ingredients except the tofu together in a large shallow dish, then submerge the slabs of tofu. Let marinate for at least half an hour. When ready to bake, pour off most of the marinade, then bake for about half an hour.

My tofu was an herbed variety from Twin Oaks, which explains the specks.

For the kale, which was market-fresh, I just sauteed a bunch of (super delicious farmers market) garlic in some avocado oil, added the kale and stirred to coat it, then poured in a few tablespoons of vegan broth, then reduced the heat, covered, and cooked until limp.

My weekend has been raccoon-intensive, as I worked at the sanctuary both days due to volunteer shortages, and we have 43 – about to be 45, as two more were set to arrive after I left – raccoons. I literally had to clean several of the cages with a raccoon – sometimes two – on my head, which makes it very difficult. Some of them were so rambunctious, it’s worn me out! Here are four trouble-makers:

They are so anxious to “help”. Here an assistant fills his “pond” with fresh water for me:

Raccoons love, love, love water.

Actually, raccoons love just about anything they can get their little hands on. We provide a wide variety of toys and objects for them to play with. Wind chimes are fun for them to grab (and destroy), and pleasant to listen to.

I made the mistake of putting a paper towel down and completely forgetting about it. When I returned to the cage later to fill the pond, I found these two fighting over something it took me a moment to recognize: the shredded, soggy remains of my paper towel. Sometimes cleaning their cages is like taking one step forward, two steps backwards. No wonder I’m exhausted.

Raccoons are certainly not the only wildlife I see at the sanctuary. Currently the big show are the deer, including these twin fawns:

This morning in the drizzle, I encountered this doe …

… and this young buck.

And now, I must go get ready for the play Mark and I are going to see in celebration of the 11th anniversary of our first date!

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Stir Fry with Tofu and Vitamin Greens

I love finding new vegetables. Yesterday’s trip to the farmer’s market yielded something called vitamin greens. The sign said they were a “mild member of the mustard family”. I wasn’t sure what to do with them but figured I couldn’t go wrong with an easy stir-fry. And I obviously didn’t go wrong because Mark claims to hate all cooked greens, but he had two servings and ate up all the greens in each of them. I still have half a bunch, so if anyone has any suggestions for other things to do with vitamin greens, let me know! And obviously you can substitute just about any other green in this recipe.

Stir-Fry with Tofu and Vitamin Greens

3 Tbsp dried fermented black beans
1/4 cup shaoxing wine (Chinese rice wine) (can sub sherry)
1/2 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 carrot, sliced
chili garlic sauce, to taste
1/2 bell pepper, chopped
1 lb tofu, chopped
1/2 bunch vitamin greens (or other greens)
3/4 cup vegetable broth
2 Tbsp vegetarian oyster sauce
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp cornstarch + 2 Tbsp cold water
1-2 scallions, sliced thinly on the diagonal

Whisk together the vegetable broth, oyster sauce, and soy sauce in small bowl; set aside. Whisk together the cornstarch and cold water in a small bowl or cup; set aside. Put the fermented black beans in a small cup or bowl and add the shaoxing wine to soften them; set aside.

Chop the tofu.

Prepare all the vegetables by peeling (if necessary) and chopping.

These are the vitamin greens in all their glory:

Heat a wok over medium high heat, then add some oil. When it’s hot, add the onions and garlic and stir-fry for a minute or two.

Add the carrots and chili garlic sauce and stir-fry for another minute or two.

Add the bell pepper and again stir-fry a minute or two.

Next up the tofu:

Finally, the greens:

Stir-fry until the greens have cooked down.

Add the fermented black beans and cook for a minute or so, then add the broth mixture. Bring to a boil, then stir in the cornstarch mixture and cook until thickened. Top with the sliced scallions.

Serve with brown rice.

What do vitamin greens taste like? Well, I didn’t get a pure taste of it considering I hid it in a spicy stir-fry (maybe I should just cook the remainder up by themselves), but it wasn’t at all sharp or mustardy as I thought it might be as a member of the mustard family. It was definitely “mild” as stated on the sign. Really good, though. I’d say it was a bit spinach-like in flavor. They cook similar to chard. It might be a good green for trying on greens-haters, as it’s not overpowering. Mark’s getting a lot better about eating greens, but I was still worried he’d pick all the vitamin greens out of his stir-fry, however, he actually seemed to enjoy them. So vitamin greens are a huge winner in my book and I’ll be keeping an eye out for them. They tasted great and I liked the texture they had in the stir-fry. They are also apparently good in salads, which I may try tomorrow as well.

I dropped my camera this morning, heading out to the wildlife sanctuary. It only fell about a foot and it landed on carpeting, but a trip to the camera store later when I realized it was broken resulted in me finding out the lens was completely gone and the body would cost almost as much to repair as its current market value. Even though it was an entry-level dSLR, I loved it and hadn’t felt the need to upgrade, so I was kind of upset about this. It was a good camera. So, feeling sad, I went home and asked Mark if he’d bought me a birthday present yet (my birthday is this week), and when he said no sort of asked/informed him he was buying me a new camera for my birthday. So I very unexpectedly got a new camera today. What this means for you is probably an onslaught of posts, or at least a lot of pictures of my cats. Here, for example, is Torticia playing with a wax bean, which she removed from the refrigerator when I was in there getting stir-fry ingredients.

In retrospect, I should have just taken a video, which apparently I can do with my new camera. Woo!

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Poached Tofu Cutlets

Holy cats, have I been busy! I don’t know why, but October is always an insanely busy month for me. I guess part of it is both our birthdays, and our anniversary, and Halloween, and I always end up travelling – sometimes multiple times – in October. I’ve also been working a lot lately. All that that is why I haven’t been posting much.

We went to Charleston, SC a couple of weeks ago to visit Mark’s family. We left mid-week and right before we left, I did a quick sweep of the refrigerator for perishables and realized I hadn’t used the tofu I’d made that weekend, so I quickly threw it in a container and popped it in the freezer. I’m not a huge fan of frozen tofu; the texture doesn’t win me over as it does some, and it is so sponge-like it always seems to absorb so much salt it tastes too salty. Nonetheless I wasn’t about to waste homemade tofu, so in the freezer it went.

I was looking for a way to use it and came across this post on the wonderful Just Bento. This idea is totally ripped off of Maki, but for my broth I just started pouring things into my Dutch oven, trying but not really to keep the sodium down.

Poached Tofu Cutlets

1 block frozen tofu, thawed
3 cups vegan broth (I used “chicken”-flavoured)
1/4 cup red wine
2 Tbsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp soy sauce
4-6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

cornstarch

Slice the tofu into four slabs like this:

Whisk together the remaining ingredients except the cornstarch in a Dutch oven or wide saucepan then add the cutlets. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer gently for 20 minutes or longer. I think I left mine for 45 minutes or so.

Remove the cutlets from the broth …

(In the wild, poached tofu is the same color as bamboo chopping blocks in order to elude knife-wielding cooks.)

… and coat with cornstarch.

Pan-fry on both sides in olive oil, or do as I did and grill on an electric grill (I brushed the grill with oil first):

Meanwhile you can thicken the (strained) leftover broth with some cornstarch (add the cornstarch to a small amount of cold water then whisk it in and heat until thickened) to make a gravy, though that’s optional.

Look at these baby sweet potatoes I got. LOOK AT THEM!

I love baby vegetables almost as much as I love baby animals. They’re tiny and sweet…just like Torticia! (By the way, upon hearing what they were, Mark informed me he hated sweet potatoes, but he tried them anyway and liked them! I know because he actually ate them! Baby vegetables are awesome!)

Plated meal:

Wow – this was the best meal I’ve made using frozen tofu, and though I’d be hard pressed (haha, like my tofu) to call the broth low-sodium, it wasn’t too salty. The texture was good too: chewy, but not overly sponge-like. Very flavourful. I think I still prefer my tofu fresh but it’s great to know I can make something really good with it even if I end up having to freeze it. And actually, frozen homemade tofu is probably better than non-frozen store-bought tofu.

In other news, I had pre-ordered then forgotten about Harold McGee’s new book Keys to Good Cooking: A Guide to Making the Best of Foods and Recipes and was therefore pleasantly surprised to find it on my doorstep this evening. It’s almost as big as the mega-wonderful On Food and Cooking, though not nearly as dense, and looks like it contains a bazillion helpful hints. I’m almost (but not quite) sorry it arrived today, because I’m feeling a little overwhelmed between work, social obligations, and the seven or eight “spooky” books I just bought for Halloween, which were added to my queue of..oh geez, 37 books. (In other news, I’ve read exactly 100 books so far this year!)

And …

Gomez, light of my life, fur of my clothes. My kitten, my cat. Go-mez-ian: the tip of your tail twitching to and fro across my toes. Go. Mez. Ian.

He is Mez, plain Mez, in the morning, standing on my chest. He is Mezzie when he plays. He is Mezzaluna in the kitchen. He is Gomez on the vet bills. But in my arms he is always Gomezian.

…and for Halloween he is Dracula!

Which is extra awesome because growing up I had a cat named Dracula, who prior to Tigger, Brachtune, Gomez, and Torticia, was the greatest cat who ever lived, and though he now has to share the title, still has a very special place in my heart. (And my skin; I have a tattoo of him.)

(My mom made Dracula’s Halloween costume just like she made all of mine!)

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